By Francisco Salazar
Light heavyweight contender Sullivan Barrera must know what he is doing, with regards to his pro career. And he keeps winning.
Barrera turned down an opportunity to face Sergey Kovalev, reportedly because he was not offered proper compensation for future fights.
These actions might put Barrera in the dog house with Main Events, the promotional company that has promoted him for several years. He does have HBO and a growing boxing fan-base in his corner.
Barrera faces former interim world light heavyweight titleholder Felix Valera tonight at The Theatre inside Madison Square Garden in New York City. The 10 round bout will open the three-bout HBO telecast (10 p.m. ET/ 7 p.m. PT).
The Cuba-born Barrera (20-1, 14 knockouts), who now resides in the Miami area, has won his last three bouts since suffering the only loss of his career to Andre Ward in March of last year.
In his last bout on July 15, Barrera survived a opening round knockdown to defeat Joe Smith by unanimous decision in Inglewood, California. He did the same thing when he faced Vyachselav Shabranskyy on Dec. 16, overcoming a knockdown to knock Shabranskyy out in the seventh round.
Shabranskyy will square off against Kovalev in tonight's main event on HBO.
The 35-year-old Barrera could be in the thick of the division, should he defeat Valera tonight, as it is widely expected. The light heavyweight division is one of boxing's most talented and compelling divisions, with so many potential fights that could be made.
"The door is wide open for everyone in the light heavyweight division," said Barrera during training camp earlier this month. "There are a lot of great fights to be made and I'm just looking to continue being in the mix with all the great fighters we have in our division."
There is a potential fight with Kovalev, if both win their fights tonight, for 2018. That fight should not be difficult to make, considering both are promoted by Main Events.
Then there are potential fights with Dmitry Bivol, who holds the WBA title, and newly-crowned IBF titleholder Artur Beterbiev. Barrera must get past Valera, who he is not overlooking.
"I have a tough opponent in front of me, someone who is coming in with nothing to lose and everything to gain," said Barrera. "Not only do I have to win, but I have to win while giving the fans and HBO audience a good show."
Barrera does have a fan-friendly boxer-puncher style. He can mix with or attempt to outbox his opponents and it is all attributed to his work with trainer Derik Santos.
"Every camp, we work on different things. I enjoy (training) camp because I learn a lot from him and we mix well. (On) Nov. 25, expect a great performance from me."
Francisco A. Salazar has written for Boxingscene.com since September of 2012 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (Calif.) Star newspaper, RingTV.com, and FightNights.com. He can be reached by email at email@example.com or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing